Vermont: Cool Days, Cold Nights

  Piney forests and cool pink winds riding on clouds.

We were helped along considerably by Tom Levardi in Dalton, MA. Tom is a mild mannered trail Saint that only asks for his guests to keep their voices down so as not to disturb the neighbors. His house is on the trail, like he has a blaze in his front yard and a blue blaze on his water spigot. He slack-packed us 23 miles, fed us a fantastic meal two nigths in a row, washed our clothes, and let us sleep in his warm house. When it was time for us to leave he drove us to the trail miles away.  He routinely hosts dozens of hikers and has been doing so for 35 years. It was a delight and an honor to have met and hung out with Tom.

Tom Levardi, saint, entertaining, feeding, and sheltering hikertrash for 35 years.

Shortly after leaving Dalton, which is one of the few towns the trail actually runs right through, we went up a hill and into Vermont. Suddenly, it was as if someone had flipped the switch between summer and fall. Days became cool and breezy, nights actually felt cold. The only heat was around the fire. Time to break out the winter gear again for the final 500 miles!

Stratton pond. Fantasmagorical weather.

 

We unanimously agree that Vermont is one of the most beautiful states thus far. It may be that the previous four states where sweltering bug swarms, and the contrasting cool bug free nights of Vermont are a most welcome reprieve, but there really is something magical about this state. We are finally getting up into real mountains again with elevations more than 3K feet. The forest is changing over to spruce, pine, and birch, and the smell of the cool wind thrashing through the pines is something we rarely got in the south.

Vintage water retrieval requires modern elbow grease.

Scattered throughout the valleys are numerous swamps, lakes, and ponds created by the ever industrius beaver. The trail even walks along, on top of, and beside several of their gigantic dams. Along the ponds are trees chewed to bits. Some trees have smooth chunks bitten out of half of a large trunk, leaving the tree standing, but teeterig on a nub. The change in scenery is something we have certainly enjoyed, but we have yet to spot an actual beaver.

1927 was the year of this tower's erection. It brought the stars a little closer to our stares.

Vermont is the second most rural state in the US. We were reminded of this when we climbed Glastenbury lookout tower near 1618.4 miles, at night. At the top the sun was setting and the light was perfect for taking pictures. We stood up there in a fierce breeze and took in the view. We were just about to take a picture for Paramount Fit Foods with a packet of jerky when the camera flash's batteries died.

Last flash before the unfortunate gravity attack upon the dead cold batteries.

Still Don't took them out to try and warm them in his hands and get one last shot. In the cold, he dropped one. Bounce, bounce, ting, ting, ting, down the stairs to the ground 50 feet away in the dark. We didn't get that shot, but we got quite a few others.

Pic of a pic of a pic in a tower.

When the sun finally vanished behind the horizon in a brilliant pink flash, darkness fell upon our camp beneath the spruces. From the top of the tower, there were no visible lights for miles and miles around. The mountain side was desolate, there was really noone else around. This was the real deal wilderness we had been waiting for for some time.

The beauty knob cranked up to 11.

In the absence of city light clouded the sky with STARS! The best stars we have seen thus far came out in Vermont in the Green Mountain Wilderness. The milkyway stretched across the sky, and above the trees in the tower, we could see stars like no other on the cold, clear, blustery night.

Thank you Tom!

A few days later we were hitching into Bennington, VT to resupply, consume copius amounts of buffet pizza, and run a few errands. Muffins and Still Don't were a couple minutes ahead of Mr. Dallas who had stayed behind to work out some logistics with the map and resupply boxes and postage etc. They arrived at the road and met Steve who is a local trail angel. He offered them a soda, and then gave them a ride direct to pizza the hut. The trail provides.

MA's all seeing eye tower atop Greylock.

Mr. Dallas arrived at the road and thumbed around for a few minutes. Five minutes later, Ellie May, another local who lived at the top of the mountain picked him up. "Where you headed?" she asked him as she stopped right in the middle of the road. "To the post office in Bennington," Mr. Dallas replied. "Perfect, hop in. That's exactly where I'm going too so you nailed it on that one," she said to him through the window. Mr. Dallas hopped in quick and off they went. Coincidense? The trail provides.

Steve, the wheels of fortune and trail magic maker.

At the post office was our resupply box with 17 lbs. of wholesome nutrition, and a separate box full of warm winter clothes and gear. Mr. Dallas was about 5 miles away from the pizza the hut where Muffins and Still Don't were gorging themselves and wrecking the buffet. This was a problem. He didn't want to lug the boxes and his pack all the way over there. Mr. Dallas sat on the boxes and looked at the map for somewhere close to eat.

Getting punched in the eye by a yellow jacket. Never take on the hivemind alone.

A brewpub caught his attention on the page. Just as he was about to plot his way a couple blocks over to it, a woman's voice distracted him from dreams of hoppy water and burger. "Are you hiking the trail?" she asked. "Yes, ma'am I am," he replied looking up at her from the grass. He may look like trash, but he speaks with class.

Tripod repaired. Thank you Gitzo, the best!

She was fit and had short hair and looked like a runner. "My husband and I are thinking about hiking the trail, but I don't know if I could do it." Mr. Dallas wasn't sure where to go with it, but encouraged her to get out and do it. "It's mostly a mind game, your body will hurt and build up, but it's all in the mind," he said. The converstation continued, she was asking good questions.

Making water drinkable, potable more safely portable.

She looked at Mr. Dallas's phone and asked, "How do you keep that charged?" "Simple, I turn it off, take the battery out, and don't use it. I really only use it when I get to a town and say for example I want to find the closest pizza the hut," he replied. She looked at Mr. Dallas and thought for a second, luckily the breeze was in his favor and the essence of smoldering wet dog drifted away from the conversation.

The Long Trail and AT run concurrently for 105 miles.

"Well, would you like a ride to pizza the hut?" she asked.

"Yes, I most certainy would," he answered.

The trail provides.

Tall handsome blue eyed string bean of a love machine according to most experts on the subject especially Muffins.

Written by Mr. Dallas.

 

The Dog Days

Happiness is a warm gun. As the temperatures climbed into triple digits we became familiar with the tingling sensations of borderline heat exhuastion. Huffing up to the peak of any mountain produced a stream of sweat that poured down elbows, body crevices, faces, and salted the earth. Clothes soaked through completely with the brine of mountain climbing.

From that tallest bump to where the camera is in one day. 1522.0

We took breaks about every five miles or so and siestad during the peak heating ours. Soaked clothes came off and brown nastiness was wrung out of the hiker-infused fabrics.

The end of a storm 1499.7.

Hydration was not enough to keep us alive. We were losing electrolytes and becoming fatigued. Our drink mixes and space age orange kick in a glass Tang helped keep us on our feet. We lunched in proximity to nature's AC: swiftly flowing creeks and streams and shade. wpid-P1060632.JPG And then an angel came out from a mirage and blessed us with sensational trail magic. Muffins was first to our lunch location at Whakey Lake Stream (1436.6) near a road. There, he met Nurse Betty.

Thank you Nurse Betty.

Nurse Betty is a fit 75 year old trail angel who walks to the top of a nearby hill on the trail and back for excercise. Her and Muffins got to taking on the bridge over the stream. She asked the magic words, "Do you need anything? I am going to work soon and will be back this way." Muffins didn't even have to think about it. "Cold drinks and fruit would be awesome," he replied.

Hello ladies.

Off she went. Mr. Dallas and Still Don't arrived and Muffins shared the good news. "I met this awesome 75 year old lady, and she said she was coming back with some magic for us soon." Soaked and still in the haze of exertion, Mr. Dallas leaned over his poles and uttered a profound, "Sweetness," and parked on a cool mossy boulder.

Nurse Betty jazzes Muffins.

About 25 minutes later she came out of the woods toting a couple cooler bags. "I have more in the car if you want to give me a hand," she said as she handed off the goodies to Mr. Dallas and Still Don't. Muffins went with her and returned with a rolling cooler. She asked us our names and hurried off to work telling us to just leave everything and she would be back for it later. We thanked her profusely.

Who are you?

In the cooler bags were bags of ice, coca cola in glass bottles, Naked fruit smoothie drinks, oranges and carrots, and an US magazine full of hot ladies. It was precisely what we needed and a rapid recharge of energy.

Nuclear lake 1438.1

Mr. Dallas filled his water resevoir with ice. It was like a cool compress on his back as the coldness soaked through his pack. Mr. Dallas packed it all up and brought it up to the road about .1 miles away. He went back and grabbed his pack and moved on up the trail. The cooler and bags were gone when he returned not even three minutes later. Strange.

Walking on boards.

Before long we were through NJ and NY and into CT where seemingly only the rich and well to do congregate. A burger and a single pint of IPA in Falls Village will run you about $22. It may be a good burger and pint, but my my that's a steep price to pay for a gang of hikertrash such as we are.

Sweet Yama Mountain Gear tarp.

Tragedy struck unlike lightning in the same place twice. In Kent, CT, Still Don't discovered that his tripod was missing an essential knob that had somehow come unscrewed and vanished. After being put through the customer service ringer he may or may not have a new part $9 and three weeks later. For now, a leather strap and tightly tied bandana are all that is keeping him shooting at night. Improvise or die.

Going down?

Also in CT, there was a raging river. On the other side of it was a party hosted by Columbians and Dominicans. They waved Muffins and Still Don't down and beckoned them to join. On his way accross the river water was splashing all over Muffins and his pack. Some of it wetted its way through his "waterproof" camera housing. The Canon G1x took on a couple drops and croaked. Disaster of the highest order. Muffins is crushed and morning the loss.

Do not put your pack down in poison ivy.

Mr. Dallas came up the party. Looked at the river, and then back at the party, and then back at the river. He hesitated for a minute and walked on away from the party intimidated by the rushing current.

Farmers tan on a beach bod?

And so we celebrated 1500 miles with busted gear, empty pockets, and a cold front that brought rain and 55 degree lows to Riga shelter mere miles from MA. Four states remain.

BrownE. A train stops here twice a day on weekends and takes you to Manhattan two transfers and two and a half hours later. 1444.5

Bear Country and Exquisite Mushrooms

Badgerface the box sender enjoys the foreign celebration. We took a week off in Jersey to celebrate the Birthday of our fine nation. One of Mr. Dallas's former students Kevin happens to own Sakura limosine company and sponsored us to the tune of a ride from the trail to home and back. It was surreal stepping out of the stinking hostel and into a suave Lincoln Executive town car. Thank you for the ride Kevin it was awesome and so good to see you and be back home! The week went by too fast.wpid-P1060596.JPG

The heat and the fireworks were still out in force as we stepped out of rock forsaken PA and into Bear Country NJ. Our spirits were high. Our first day out was a mere 5 miles. It was so hot when we arrived back at the trail in Delaware Water Gap (1289) that we really didn't want to move. We sat like jaded reptiles in the shade reluctant to climb into the woods. And so we hit up the pizza place and waited for a degree on the simmer to settle down in air conditioned space with cool sodas. Summer time is here at last.

Random abandoned houses are sometimes your water source.

Muffins was the first to encounter a bear. The bears come out when the blueberries are ripe. Muffins was walking across a particular stretch of trail that was swoddled in blueberry bushes. In front of him, maybe 20 ft, a large blueberry bush was shaking wildly. It undulated and shook and he stopped and gaped at it incredulously. Muffins heard a snort and then suddenly the bush stopped moving and the rustling haulted.

High Point state park. The highest and hottest point in New Jersey. Muffins drips sweat.

In an instant a big fat black bear head poked out from the top of the bush as if it were a jack in the box toy. It looked Muffins dead in the eye and assessed the situation. Sensing no threat from Muffins' comparitively small stature, the fat berry muncher snorted loudly and sunk back into the bush gorging its self. Muffins slowly walked by given safe passage by the bear's indifference. He was stoked to have had such a close encounter.

Boardwalk Empire! Swamp and Mountains

The next morning was our first morning in NJ on the trail. We slept in cool thick grass and had nice breezes all night. Deer walked right up to our tents and grazed in the moonlight. It was kind of spooky hearing them munch and move around outside our tents. When Mr. Dallas opened his tent he was greeted by several deer that  scattered once they saw his movement.

Honeysuckle negotiates the "hardway" The "easy way" is a joke sign.

Mr. Dallas started to walk down the rocky side of the hill to handle business. The privy was full of bullet holes and looked just a little too ragged to dump on. The woods would do just fine. A few steps down the rocks and his heart was in his throat. BRRRRRRRRRzzzzzzzzzzzz! A huge Timber Rattle snake started shaking up in a coil a few feet in front of him. He slowly backed away and another rattle fired up behind him. "You gotta be kidding me," he scream whispered.Joshua Niven Photography

Mr. Dallas tiptoed up and out of the rocky rattle snake mine field and took a couple deep breaths. To the bullet riddled privy! Hold your breath! He was surprised to find it in relatively decent inner condition thanks to Lee. Lee is a trail angel who maintains shelters and privies in the NJ area. He does excellent work and we thank him for taking care of us.

Going up? Lucky to have a ladder here.

After a few more miles we passed Sunfish Pond and the climate and geography started getting strange and unlike anything we had ever seen before on the trail down south. Swamps appeared out of nowhere at the tops of the mountains complete with lilly pads, board walks, frogs, fish, and MOSQUITOS.

Fitzgerald Falls, NY (1371.5)

Our second night in NJ was wrecked with mosquitos. Despite the heat, Mr. Dallas was completely covered in pants and a wool sweater. His face and hands were the only things exposed to the bugs and those were each slathered it deet. As he cooked dinner he struggled to keep his sanity as the swarm buzzed from ear to ear. Much like our monkey relatives, we have developed nervous twitches and swats that kill and repel the mosquitos.wpid-P1060547.JPG

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Dallas bought a sleeping bag liner to sleep in that repels insects with some type of magical non-deet chemical. He slept comfortable without even a humming assault on his face. Muffins and Still Don't were not as lucky.

Red Domed yellow gillies.

They slept in a cloud of mosquitos. Mr. Dallas could ocasionally hear them from his tent a couple feet away. Smack! Swat! Smack! Pop! All night long Muffins and Still Don't rustled, smacked bugs, and sweated under their covers. The next night Still Don't piled leaves up to the edges of the tent and less bugs made it through. Adapt or have your blood drawn one prick at a time.

Ground Gramaphones.

The ecosystems alternated from rocky vertical climbs to soggy mountain marshes and swamps dozens of times. Walk fast and the mosquitos can only stick on to the back of your arms. We were smashing five or six in a single swipe. Still Don't would stop to take a picture and have to fight off a panic attack and fainting sensation brought on by the insects. You know it's bad when they are a screaming chorus in your ear.

Crashing Saucer

The moisture made the mosquitos, but it also made the mushrooms. At the end of the day we were excited about the mushrooms, that's how fantastical they were. Some of them were straight out of Super Mario Bros, others looked like they were from outer space. None of them looked particularly appetizing, at least not yet.wpid-P1060520.JPG

written by Mr. Dallas

 

Rocksylvania Beats Feets

In the beginning, Pennsylvania was nice. We were blessed by excellent trail magic, the trail had flattened out quite a bit and the rumored "rocks" were a myth. Pennsylvania is a long state, and they saved the longest for last. Here's a look at the end of PA, Climbing out of Palmerton It's been a long day.

We camped about .2 of a mile away from James Fry shelter around 1104.9. The night was an uninterrupted deluge and everything was wet. The rain cleared out with the morning sun but we were in such dense tree cover that there were only thin yellow shards to dry out in. However, it was warm.

Earlier in the downpour Rickshaw and Mr. Dallas were busy building sleeping mat canoes inside their tent. The runoff from the rainstorm had turned their piece of real estate into a swamp. Under the corners of his tarp sleeping mat Rickshaw stuffed his trekking poles, and along the edges he placed a long branch. Mr. Dallas did the same. The water flowed under the tent, and then around each mat, but not over the elevated edges. As long as the sides tilted up, they had a nice canoe to sleep in. This is how you sleep in monsoon season in a tarp tent.

Purple big and small. A devoured mountain sags in the background.

Much of our clothes were hung out to dry when the rain started. When clothes get wet they get heavy, bonus pounds! It was only 11 miles to Boiling Springs, PA. There was a lot on our agenda for the day as well. Rickshaw was going to get to see his wee baby daughter and celebrate his first Father's day. Still Don't had to make some phone calls for resupply. Mr. Dallas had to wrangle some gear. Muffins had to find libations and the most expensive trout sandwich available.

Still Don't was down the trail first. Rickshaw made a good call in saving our water pump from the stirred up sediment in the creek from the rain. There was a country store about 1.5 miles away after crossing two railroad tracks and a road. The store was only .2 off of the trail and had free clean water to spare the filter. We were going to get water there and then press on.

Crab and Coral

Still Don't got water and moved out. Rickshaw didn't like the water because of its heavy metallic taste. Yum, extra iron for the blood. Rickshaw was too excited to hike and yellow blazed to Boiling Springs to see his baby girl. On his third car a member of PATC picked him up and he was there 20 minutes later. (Yellow blazing is hitchhiking)

Muffins and Mr. Dallas were lured by the cheese steak sandwiches sold from the deli and turned the quick water stop into a quick brunch. With all their wet clothes spread out over the lawn, they sat and ate watching Dumpstermouth hop into a van and speed off to Boiling Springs. It made them both laugh. That was the last time they would hike with Rickshaw aka Dumpstermouth aka Cheetah Butt aka Spigot A$$.

Still Don't like the rocks.

Meanwhile, Still Don't was several miles ahead and making his way through the rock maze near mile 1108.8. It was a gigantic boulder field at the pinnacle of the mountain. Car sized rocks had to be climbed over, and there were multiple paths, and many worn out blazes that were difficult to spot. You could go up and over one rock with a clear blaze on it only to look 20 feet down and see that you weren't quite hiking the right direction. It took some time, and a good bit of hand over fist climbing to make it through the maze.

Shortly after the maze, and a quick climb Still Don't came across Cody and Epic at the old plaque halfway point which may have had knob in the title. Cody is an outdoor enthusiast local to PA and Epic is his young sun. They were out for a quick section hike. Still Don't and Cody hit it off and pretty soon some serious trail magic was arranged on our behalf.

Flat before the stones, before the rocks, before the inanimate jagged objects and hard places.  That's Muffins as a speck.

Muffins and Mr. Dallas made it through the rock maze and down the mountain into Cumberland Valley. And the cake walk began. The trail tamed down from a gnarly rock scramble to flat cornfields with less than a mile of transition. They walked through the cornfields in clear hot sun about a mile and a half apart into Boiling Springs.

Everyone met up under some large willows on the side of the crystal clear "Children's Pond" near the ATC's central southern bureau office. Mr. Dallas arrived last. He had to stop and attend to a tree bite on his shin and it delayed him a few minutes. When he walked up Hot Dog, Apple Butter, Still Don't, Muffins, Cody, Epic, and Rickshaw were all chilling in the shade eating cookies. It was a party.

Muffins, Brownie, Mr. Dallas rock hopping.

Hot Dog and Apple Butter were in our same boat. They had met a kind local who was putting them up in her house for the night and feeding them proper. They were just waiting for their ride. Cody offered us the grass in his backyard and his spigot. We accepted enthusiastically. He had some errands to run, but he told us he would be back around 6:30 to pick us up. And he was.

In the blink of an eye we were transported to suburbia. Cold micro brews were cracked and the grill fired up for burgers. We were stuffed on burgers with patties stacked 3 deep, chips, beans, slaw, and hearty American backyard cuisine. We were right at home around a fire pit in Cody's back yard.

The rocks go on forever.

Rickshaws baby arrived and he left with her in his arms to go be with family. Mr. Dallas and Muffins both predicted Rickshaw would not return after holding his infant daughter Sage. There's something magical about babies. As a precaution Mr. Dallas made sure to retrieve all shared essential items from Dumpstermouth before he left. We stayed up late talking about the trail with Cody and entertaining young Epic who had more energy than a powder keg.

First thing in the morning Mr. Dallas was greeted with a cup of coffee and a smile from Cody. Here was a California kid who grew up in Pennsylvania giving Southern Hospitality a serious run for its money. We were out of Dixie, the world was different now, but Cody gave us all hope that the North had good people in it. Cody gave us fantastic encouragement.

Night falling on forest and stone.

He drove us to the store, and hiked along with us for a solid 10 miles across the Cumberland Valley in the green tunnels of overgrowth between crops, literal amber waves of grain. We thanked him profusely, and parted ways just before a large white barn and picnic area. We still had 15 miles to go that day for a long haul to Duncannon, PA (1142.5).

Still Don't, Mr. Dallas, and Muffins lunched large and napped it off for an hour or two during the hottest part of the day. It was a long 15 miles that ended up stretching to 16 because the campsite was on the other side of town. We arrived in Duncannon down a savage loose rock pile cliff side descent in the dark. It takes a lot of daylight to hike 26 miles, and we had run out miles ago. Ankles were tweaked, feet were bruised, shins were burning, but we made it.

The climb begins down at that road.

We were all huddled under a lit up BBQ joints sign trying to read the map and figure out where the camping was. Two locals walked by on the way to a "drowning pool" concert and yelled at us, "good luck its all the way on the other side of town." Mr. Dallas mumbled in reply, "good luck your tiny expletive town is only a mile long," and they neither heard it, nor cared to trifle with that mustache. The camping was in fact a mile and change away and the town was in fact as twice as long as a mile.

Jokingly, Mr. Dallas stuck out his thumb at a passing car headed in the right direction. It slowed down and ogled him. Ladies! And in a nice VW jetta. They slowed, but then drove on by. He turned around, "Almost had that one boys!" "Too bad hitching is impossible in PA on account of the strict criminal codes." He knew nothing of the sort but was spouting nonsense out of exhaustion. Mirages.

The VW came back around and pulled into the parking lot. In it were two guys, not ladies. They gave us a ride to the other side of town and the three of us camped in free comfortable dirt that night. We demolished a family size mac n cheese with a special dinner pack mix provided by Paramount Fit Foods. Our Mac in cheese was seriously augmented by marcona almonds, macadamia, sun dried tomatoes, olive oil, and rehydrated jerky. Delicious, Nutritious, Sleep.

Chicken of the forest, Hen of the woods? Rumor has it these plastic shiny shrooms are eatable, edible.

 

Written by Mr. Dallas

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bedrock, Bears Den, BIG MILES

A glimpse of the future. We were invited out to see the Bedrock Sandals production facility and loft in Charlottesville, VA. Nick and Dan, the makers of fine sandals treated us to a tour of the facility. Each pair is made by their own hands in small runs in a multi-stage process. It was cool to tie in some straps and become part of the assembly line for a couple pairs. We have been wearing them around camp and loving the pairs we helped put together. Thanks a lot Nick and Dan it was cool kicking it at the loft and witnessing the hard work and skill that goes into each pair.

Bedrocks rockin'

Dan drove us to resupply at a swanky Harris Teeter. We stunk up the place and got a lot of friendly stares. We purchased the night's dinner which was 2 lbs. of ground beef, peppers, onions, yellow rice, avocado and tortillas. That all adds up to tacos, and lots of them. Too bad they weren't ready to eat until around midnight.

Dan drilling soles.

Why so late? Well we hit the trail pretty late that particular day and only planned to do about 1.2 miles of easy Shenandoah miles to the nearest shelter around mile 938.6 and know as Pass Mountain shelter. If all went according to plan we would have arrived around 7 or 8 pm and had plenty of time to vegetate. Muffins, Still Dont, and Dumpstermouth arrived and set up camp behind the privy at the overrun shelter totally packed out and void of any tenting space.

It got dark and Mr. Dallas hadn't arrived yet. The terrain was such a cake walk that he had over walked the shelter by about 3.8 miles and was becoming confused in the dark. Where in the world is the shelter? It all made sense once he realized the concrete pylons he had been passing the whole time had steel bands with known distances and landmarks stamped into them in size 10 font.

Just for you Thaddeus.

He pulled out his headlamp and pointed right up close at the place marker. The light flickered flashed and died. The batteries were drained when it somehow got smashed and turned on in the pack. Things just got a little more complicated. He sat down in the dark and remembered the standard addage, "If lost, relax."

It was too dark to move without a light. What to do, what to do? It would be nice if he could read his map. In a stroke of obvious he remembered his crank radio and the light it has built into it. He pulled it out and cross referenced his map to the information on the pylon. It sunk in and he smiled at the prospect of hiking backwards for the next 2 hours in the dark.

Do not eat me.

Pop music and saturday night dance tunes kept him company as he hiked along keeping a constant rotation going on the crank to light his path. He switched to classical radio and things got a little freaky. Organ music, the bombastic creepy kind with blasting crescendos gave him chills in the dark. He liked it.

He crept up on some weekend hikers attempting to stealth camp off the trail. He passed them earlier and knew he still had a long way to go. The light turned off, but the organ performance continued as he slowly walked by with silent steps and lingered a moment a few yards from their tent. Their lights turned off and they were whispering to each other terrified. Mr. Dallas moved on holding back snickers.

How much hikertrash can you fit in a cheap hotel room?

Mr. Dallas arrived at the proper location around 11:20pm, organ music blaring. Muffins was stirred from his dreams by the eerie wailing and piping of a master organ concerto. Turns out Still Dont and Dumpstermouth had left to go try and find Mr. Dallas. Plus one, minus two.

Mr. Dallas immediatley started cooking up the tacos and Still Dont and Dumpstermouth arrived expressing their concerns. They believed he had been arrested or killed by a poacher. He was merely tacking up some bonus miles. The tacos were demolished and the greasy dishes were flossed out. Sleep fell on us hard and fast.

The Bears Den Castle at night

Several days later around 980.3 we were at Dick's dome shelter. The shelter is dome shaped and bears resemblance to the double stack of innuendo of its namesake. Harper's Ferry was only a couple days away and we were finally hitting a 20 mile per day stride. It was scorching hot outside and our water was going straight through us. And then came the roller coaster.

The roller coaster is about 14 miles of 500 foot climbs followed immediately by 500 foot descents. In the 90 degree heat it might as well have been a meat grinder. Sweat made it way straight through our clothes. It pooled up in Dumpstermouths glasses and could be wrung out in a brown splash from our clothes.

Oh my.

The recent rains made the streams brown and full of water filter killing sediment. We had to fill our bucket and let the water settle for an hour or so, and then filter it off the top. We even stuck it out several miles passing one murky water source in the hopes that the next would be more clear. It was. We splashed and dunked our heads in the freezing cold spring to fight the heat.

Look out tower of the Bears Den Hostel

Near the end of the roller coaster we were beat and in desperate need of water. Muffins and Dumpstermouth stopped at the Bears Den Rocks and explored the water options. Dumpstermouth walked down to Bears Den Hostel to fill his water reservoir and came back running and excited.

"Why are you running?" Still Dont asked. Running is quite abnormal on the trail for a hiker. Dumpstermouth was excited. "Yo, there's a ton of food up there and a bunch of people we know, let's go." He had us at food.

There was a hiker feed going on and the magic was flowing in the form of chicken and noodles, green beans, mashed potatoes, and all the soda you could dream of. In an instant we went from exhausted and dehydrated to uncomfortably full and food comas extraordinaire. It was topped off with a pint of Ben and Jerry's for each of us and a warm shower.

The Bears Den Hostel was a fantastic stay and an amazing castle in the woods. Thank you Potomac Appalachian Trail Club for maintaining outstanding facilities and trail miles. Volunteers Dick and caretaker Jonathan do great work.

Dick, volunteer and trail angel of the PATC.

written by Mr. Dallas